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ファッション、ジュエリー&ウォッチ、ライフスタイル、ビューティ、フード…
各ジャンルに精通する個性豊かなエディターたちが、GINZA SIXをぶらぶらと
歩いて見つけた楽しみ方を綴ります。

A Quiet Spree in Mid-Ginza: A Walk and a Few Drinks Alone

寒河江 千代

GINZA SIX EDITORS Vol.53

Tokyo should have more benches. That’s what I think each time I return to Japan, which is several times a year. To take a little break, to check where you’re going—the reasons vary. But sitting on a bench in an international city brings the rhythms and expressions of passersby into focus. A few moments of bench time give a detached perspectives on fragments of the city and its people. At the same time, these moments draw you closer to those passing by—it’s strange, actually. Benches are like small oases in a city where one is free to rest awhile, free of charge. So, why not, Tokyo?
My preamble has gone a bit longer than expected. What first struck me about GINZA SIX was the number of benches inside. You find wide leather benches with a touch of luxurious elegance in the hallways of each floor, most surrounding atrium space. You see couples discussing their shopping or an older woman taking a break. The impression is of a completely ordinary scene on what could be any street corner. I settle on one of the benches, lower my line of sight, and see how the hallways and shops stray from straight lines; how the corners of store blocks depart from rigid right angles; how the interior layout resembles the angles found on small side streets, inviting people to press on and discover. The appeal also lies in aspects like this.

The fun of walking GINZA SIX isn’t limited to benches. Another joyful find is “Like a flock of starlings: work in situ,” the art installation by French contemporary artist Daniel Buren that alighted in the central atrium space this past spring. I interviewed the artist previously in Paris. I remember the charming smile of a master, who winked when he said: “My starting point when I incorporate the characteristics of a place or space in my work is the Japanese idea of ‘borrowed scenery.’” Buren’s works characteristically allow viewers room to make their own discoveries, asking us, “So what do you see?” There’s no question his works present various when you look at them from different angles or directions.

The work in the atrium space consists of 1,675 red-and-blue triangular flags on a gigantic rectangular frame, installed at an angle. When you view the airy slope from a middle floor, it offers up something different than from a lower floor. Depending on your viewing position and angle, the overall sense of volume and the shape and ratio of red and blue all change and create a different impression. It’s fascinating.

Once, in France, I happened to see a formation of starlings in the countryside circling above a wide field. The movement of the flags, like a flock fluttering for a moment and expanding and contracting, makes me wonder if this is what it would look like if I could get up close and look from the sky. I picture this. I feel myself wanting to take a deep, deep breath in a wide-open space close to the sky. At times like this, I go up to GINZA SIX Garden, the rooftop garden and the pride of GINZA SIX.

A year has passed since GINZA SIX opened. It’s summer once again. The grass and the trees have taken firm root. The growth of trees and grass in the rooftop garden is thick and dense. Stone slabs have been spread, and water is flowing over them in the water feature, a popular play area for small children.

The central plaza opens to the sky. The promenade circling the expansive rooftop offers a view across the way to Ginza’s streets and buildings. A small path through the greenery appears at the corner of the plaza lined with trees and bushes of varying heights. You forget you’re on top of a building several tens of meters above the ground. Everyone spends their time exactly as they prefer for the passing moment in their favorite spots: walking, reading, eating lunch in the shade of the trees. The landscape artist Shunsaku Miyagi has said of his work here: “To seek to create a place not just for plants and trees, but for the sky, a place for people to come to breathe with a sense of vitality…” I’m in complete accord with the thoughtfulness of his design.

At the start of the Meiji period, around the 1870s, Ginza’s streets were said to be lined for the first time in Japan with trees native to the country, like cherry and maple. Given this historical backdrop, the rooftop garden is composed entirely of trees, plants, and flowers native to Japan. With the exception of gardens that are self-consciously “Japanese,” gardens composed entirely of native species are rare. I know relatively little about plants, but I’m interested in learning about each of the little flowers I see. In the photo, according to the sign, this is an Inumaki flower.

I notice the design of the benches. The area at your knees is comfortably curved, an appealing touch. The garden is filled with benches of the same design, but made of varying materials, like wood, gray granite, and stone of a certain mustard shade.

Another joy of a walk at GINZA SIX is the opportunity for evening aperitifs, should the fancy strike, as you sit in contemplation. Tokyo actually has very few privately run establishments where one feels totally free to drop in for a glass of wine in the evening, with no dinner reservation. I’ve lived many years in Paris: Every district has a million no-name cafés. I would often go to one and sit at the counter or out on the terrace, even if I had other plans for later in the evening. Suddenly longing for just such an unencumbered moment or two, I make my way to the café and bar at Wine Shop Enoteca on the second belowground floor.

The friendly atmosphere of the establishment is the first noteworthy impression. The hallway leading there is part of its interior space. Looking at the list of wines by the glass (including sparkling wine), I see a full seven varieties priced from 500 yen—also appealing. The list is updated every Wednesday, I’m told, as sommelier and wine selector Nobue Akasaka pours a dry sparkling wine (a Spanish Cava). Its profound effervescence and flavor lift my spirits.

If the tables along the wall are full, you can stand and drink at one of the round tables or at the counter. The elegance of the wine gainsays—in a good way—the casual interior and confers a special quality on this café and bar. Simple is best, argues the tender and fragrant dry-cured ham and parmesan cheese appetizer I find myself ordering.

If you prefer drinks without worrying about reservations, another destination is Bistro AUX AMIS. Limited items from the French Evening Drink Menu are offered from 5:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. Intrigued by the title of this service, which sounds like exactly what I want, I head to the sixth floor.

I see pure white cloths placed on the red-and-white checkered tablecloths, the classic visual welcome of the unpretentious bistro. I think for a moment, turning skeptical, that they’re of course preparing for dinner. But my selections from the Evening Drink Menu—the White Fish Brandade with Melba Toast (600 yen; all prices listed before tax) and glass of white Chateau du Pin Bordeaux (500 yen)—are graciously accepted and duly brought to my table.

Brandade is made by rehydrating salt cod and processing it into a thick cream. Technically, it’s an appetizer, but it’s the meticulous work of a professional. Against it the gentle tartness of the white Bordeaux is light and buoyant—the pairing works well. A quiet aperitif alone! That was the plan. But I find myself thinking all sorts of things…maybe I’ll invite a friend who’s done with work for the day to have dinner with me here. Being free to think all sorts of things is one of the joys of evening.

I tell myself I’m simply location scouting for my next dinner and order the Japanese Beef Cheeks in Red Wine Sauce (2,800 yen) from the à la carte menu. The faintly aromatic butter in the rich sauce over meltingly tender beef cheeks piques the appetite. Six varieties of red wine by the glass are typically on offer. I choose the Côte de Nuits-Villages (1,200 yen) from Burgundy, the home of this dish.

If there’s space, Bistro AUX AMIS immediately accommodates patrons, like me, who have a change of heart and decide to stay for dinner. Authentic bistro food, wine, and pleasant service—perfect!

One of the places I’ve wanted to visit is a space displaying handicrafts made in collaboration with Japanese craftspeople in the corner of Nakagawa Masashichi Shoten, which, since its founding 300 years ago in Nara, has applied craft techniques to produce implements for daily life. This is based in part on feeling for many years that the significance of handicrafts made by craftspeople living in contemporary society, and the effort to connect these craftspeople to consumers who appreciate their work, are issues of craftsmanship transcending nationality.

The store currently features pop-up space (August 1 to October 31) for the new brand Saron Mise, known best for making tea utensil boxes for the home, designed to store all the basic tea utensils in a square, paulownia wood box. Even if you’re not studying tea ceremony formally, bringing out this box and enjoying a little tea break is certainly a fine idea. From a tea cup to a small tea caddy, glass candy container, single-flower vase, tea cloth case, and more—all sold separately—the impression created by the compact dimensions couldn’t be more modern.

Walk and rest from time to time, then walk again. If you do, you’ll find something new you didn’t notice the day before. For a quiet walk in Ginza, you can’t go wrong with a route through GINZA SIX.

Text : Chiyo Sagae  Photos : Tomo Ishiwatari  Edit : Yuka Okada

editors_sagae

寒河江 千代

ジャーナリスト。文化・表現社会学を専攻しながらTV、新聞社の制作アシスタントを経て1986年より渡仏。食、建築デザイン、旅を中心に「カーサブルータス」「ブルータス」「料理通信」他で取材・執筆。昨年より「Hanako旅ムック」の編集に携わり、エディター修行中。
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